Abbey’s story began like most of yours. Before she founded The Virtual Savvy, she was just an expectant mother looking for the freedom and flexibility to leave her day job and work from home. Abbey stumbled upon virtual assisting, so she started by doing that on the side. When she was finally earning enough from it, she quit her full-time job and never looked back.
As she learned about coaching from the people she was assisting, Abbey began wondering if she could do the same. She started by creating courses on anything she thought people would buy. When she finally released them, she only sold one. It was devastating.
Abbey could have quit in that moment, and it’s often when people do. I’m so glad she didn’t.
Instead of walking away, Abbey decided to take a good look at her business to find out where she’d gone wrong. She quickly realized she had too many ideas. And trying to teach a course on all of them simply was not working. After listening to the Business Boutique podcast, she learned about the power of simplifying your business and focusing on one thing.
She went straight to her audience. By sending a note to her email list, Abbey quickly discovered exactly what they wanted to learn: how to start their own virtual assistant business. This was something she happened to have both experience and expertise in. So she went back to work, created a new course on this one topic, released it, sent it out to her email list, and sold 16 of them—generating $8,000!
That was eight times what she had made the year before when she tried to teach all the things.
I caught up with Abbey to get an update on how her business has changed and grown since we last spoke one year ago.
Christy Wright: Abbey, I love your story of finding focus and how much more success you’ve seen since cutting down the number of courses you offer. What’s new with you and your business since we last spoke?
Abbey Ashley: It’s incredible what can happen with a year of focus! I hit my first year of making over $500,000 and hired three full-time team members. The transition has allowed me to take more time for me. I can work less on my business while it continues to grow. It’s the best feeling in the world!
One new thing that we also started doing this year is praying for our customers. In our weekly team meeting, we pray for every new customer that entered our paid community that week. It’s now one of my favorite times of the week!
Oh! And I retired my husband! It’s been his dream to do full-time ministry for so long, and now he can volunteer at our church without having to worry about them paying him. He has sacrificed so much for me over the years as I built this business. I’m so happy to be able to support his dreams!
CW: That’s incredible. I love how business can bless so many areas of our lives! The last time we talked, you had done $300,000 in course sales. What’s the latest?
AA: We ended 2018 with $652,000 in total sales! I literally cried when I saw that number. I remember starting my business in my 600-square-foot apartment—so scared that this was just going to be another thing that I started that would fizzle out. It’s amazing what can happen when you remain focused on one thing. (I have two main products and cut out practically everything else in my business.) We actually do more by scaling back and offering less.
CW: That’s a hard lesson to learn. We have a tendency to want to tackle all of our ideas at once. What would you tell someone else who wants to create and sell courses?
AA: People make selling an online course so difficult when it really doesn’t have to be! Most people have the steps right, but they do them in the wrong order. Someone will have a course idea, create the thing then try to find people to buy it. In reality, your first priority must be to create an audience.
For me, I started an email list as early as I could in business and did everything I could to get people on that list. Posting my blogs on Pinterest, creating a Facebook group, and being on podcasts is what has worked best for me to build my audience.
Once you have the audience—I recommend at least 1,000 email subscribers—you can ask them what they want to learn! People think that I came up with the idea to teach others how to become virtual assistants. In reality, I asked my audience what they wanted to learn from me, and they told me! “Teach us how to be VAs!” I listened and built the course. And you know what? People bought it!
CW: Yes! That’s such a great lesson: Let your customers guide what you create. What else have you learned along the way?
AA: I attended the Business Boutique event in 2017, and it was a milestone moment in my business. Before then, I really had a “lone ranger” mentality in my business. Being surrounded by so many people, who were all striving for the same thing, really made an impact on me.
I made business friends at that conference that are still some of my best biz buddies today. That’s when I really got into listening to the Business Boutique podcast and watching Christy on Insta stories. Getting a sneak peek into the life of entrepreneurs helps me consistently keep myself in check. I listen to the inspiration of others’ stories so I can reassure myself: I’m on the right path. Others struggle too. The plans of the diligent prosper. Just keep going!
CW: What’s the best piece of advice you love to give to other entrepreneurs?
AA: My goal is to reach $1 million in sales this year. Crazy town, right? I think it is important to note that my goal is for 40% of that to be profit (even after I’ve paid myself and my team). A big lesson for me this year, and the advice that I often share with others, has been that I have to value profit over ego.
Could I have reached $1 million sooner in my business? Yes. But I would have had to spend so much to get there that I wouldn’t have been profitable. Don’t be discouraged when you hear others talking about how much money they’re making. You have no idea what is happening behind the scenes in their business and if they are profitable at all! Stay faithful to your journey and the path that God has put before you!
CW: I love that, Abbey. What big dreams do you have for your business this year?
AA: I love this question. For me, this has always been a “lifestyle business.” That means I don’t live for the business—the business supports the type of lifestyle I want to live! We will be bringing a foster teen into our home this month, and it’s so important for me to have a flexible schedule so that I can be there for whatever she needs. I’ve put a team in place to cover so much of the business that I can focus on doing some personal things that we’ve put on hold for a while.
Did y’all catch the moral of her story? Don’t miss it because it’s so important to growing a successful business. Focus on one thing. Focus on what best corresponds with your expertise and what best serves your customers.
Knowing what to focus on can be tough, which is why last year, my team and I shifted to a “Monthly Focus” model in the Business Boutique Academy. Instead of releasing a new lesson on a new topic every week, we choose one area to focus on for the entire month and break it down into four lessons. It’s been so refreshing to dig deeper into these topics.
Friends, I have some exciting news for you:
Spring enrollment for the Business Boutique Academy is upon us!
On March 18, we’ll be opening enrollment for four days only. I don’t want you to miss out on the opportunity to join and get the focused training you need to grow your business this year. So, get the enrollment fee on your March budget and get on the wait list to be alerted when it opens. It’s time to invest in your dream!